Lori Brack

Lori Brack
Museum Made of Breath

Review by Roy Beckemeyer

Museum

The genius of Lori Brack’s poetry may lie in her luxurious use of language. In her very first poem, she captures the essence of saxifrage (genus, Saxifraga, which literally means “stone-breakers”), flowering plants also known by the common name rockfoil:

“Genus of whiplash, yellow mountain, tumbling waters. You
send your clingy toes down. You believe this earth…”
(from “Ylem and Plenum and Saxifrage”)

It may also lie in the finely-honed artistry of her syntax, which invariably provides perfect settings for the gems of imagery and metaphor that gleam on every page:

“Except for the weathercock sunrise (more literature than
somnambulist in the hedge), I want to be the only reader
inspecting the verges…little blackcurrants of tantrum…
…each pigtail of punctuation…
…a seedbed of sequin…”
(from “Novel Reading”)

This collection of poems is intelligent, engaging, sometimes startling. The poem “Novel Reading” begins with a first stanza labeled “5 a.m.” The second is labeled “11 p.m.” and she has spent the day reading: “I want to be alone when I discover the wildcat rosebud, the thingamabob itself, to feel the bivouac of stubborn grammar…I reel toward the garnet, piggyback, brushing the sanitarium out of my skirt…”

The title Museum Made of Breath is apropos of this work. Brack puts on display a range of ideas and emotions worthy of a traveling exhibition. You will wander these pages as you would a museum’s rooms, browsing, studying, taking in the range from extravagance to intimacy:

“A poem is not
unlike math, in which you
solve for X, but almost every
noun and verb seem an X to her.”
(from “A Natural History of Leaves and Rivers”)

“Brushing, both of them, against
something greater than their own
flesh…”
(from “She Named His Coming”)

“My heart tips sideways like a tilt-a-whirl,
its axis wild, swinging away from true,
and I thought gravity began with you.”
(from “Instead of Air”)

“Unconscious geometry. Tongue rich, swish, whispers this root. Tumble. Undoing.”
(from “Field”)

“In a windowsill, a ladybug on its back fades
toward yellow, black legs folded and folded.”
(from “Oologies”)

“Swallow
down the bullet so you become a gun,
language in your throat, chambered.”
(from “If only once the summons were a roar”)

No library-like quiet in this museum, please. These are poems to be read aloud, whispered, shouted, murmured, each word’s weight allowed to rest tentaively or linger as necessary on your tongue, before being breathed out into the waiting air. 

Museum Made of Breath (2018, Spartan Press, Kansas City, MO, viii+60 pp), by Lori Brack, is available from Barnes & Noble. A brief bio of Lori Brack is at KHN Center for the Arts.